The Joust of the Saracen
La Giostra del Saracino
Arezzo (Tuscany region)
a medieval game of chivalry, an imposing historical reenactment in one of the most charming town of Italy: the Saracen joust takes place in Arezzo’s beautiful Piazza Grande since centuries and still today, twice a year, in June and in September, for a breathtaking time-travel with the thrill of a knightly tournament...
Geographical, cultural and historical context
Arezzo is a charming town located in Tuscany, close to the Apennines, at about 80 km from Florence, on a steep hill rising from the floodplain of the River Arno, in a territory characterized by an amazing variety of landscapes (hills, mountains and plains). The town boasts a quite ancient origin: while the territory was inhabited already during the Palaeolithic Age, the town was originally founded as an Etruscan trading post by name Aritim, and became one of the twelve most important Etruscan cities (the so-called Dodecapolis part of the Etruscan League). After the Roman conquest in 311 BC, the town was absorbed into the Roman Empire and renamed Arretium, playing still an important role due to its strategic position along the Roman Via Cassia, the road built to support the Roman expansion into the river Po basin. Under Emperor Augustus Arezzo developed further in the third largest city in Italy, and got famous for its widely-exported pottery manufactures.
The city managed to flourish also during the Middle Ages as a free republic already since the 10th century AD before definitely surrendering during the 14th century AD to mighty Florence ruled by the House of Medici. Although heavily damaged during the WW2 the upper town keeps still today a remarkable medieval look with the Cathedral, the town hall and the Medici Fortress, and several other historical religious and secular architectures witnessing the majesty of Arezzo over the centuries.
Event description and Programme
Every year the magnificent Piazza Grande, one of the most characteristic squares in Italy, hosts a medieval festival and joust called “Giostra del Saracino”, the Saracen Joust, an ancient knights' tournament born as military training during the Middle Ages, and developed then in memorable shows in baroque style between the 16th and the 17th century. The Saracen Joust, finally restored in 1931 as a jousting tournament and historical re-enactment set in the 14th century, is today held twice a year, on the third Saturday of June, by night, and the first Sunday of September by day.
The knights (two for each of the four town districts) armed with lances, charge at full gallop at a wooden target on the shield attached to the left arm of an armour-plated dummy portraying a Saracen king. The wooden figure holds a cat-o'-nine-tails in the right hand and rotates when its shield is hit. The knights, in turns, gallop with their spears towards the Saracen trying to score points by hitting the target on the shield and to avoid being hit by the Saracen itself. The knights with the highest score win the competition, allowing their district to get the coveted Golden Lance, the trophy made each year by a local craftsman.
All the town people dress-up in medieval costume enthusiastically cheering on the competitors and making the whole Arezzo jump magically back to the charm and the atmosphere of the Middle Ages. The programme includes also medieval banquets, the scenic and colourful historical parade with more than 300 characters in period costumes, the proclamation of the joust challenge, the blessing of the men-at-arms, the performances of the famous Arezzo flag-wavers, living history displays and workshops, and finally the Joust's musicians playing the Saracen Hymn.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Arezzo Town Council / Comune di Arezzo
Address: Piazza della Libertà, 1 - 52100 Arezzo, Italy
Tel.: +39 0575 3770 - 0575 377462
Fax +39 0575 377464
Saracen Joust Institution / Istituzione Giostra del Saracino
Ufficio Turismo, Giostra del Saracino e Folklore
Address: via della Bicchieraia, 26 - 52100 Arezzo
Tel.: +39 (0)575 377462 – (0)575 377463
Fax: +39 (0)575 377464
Agenzia per il Turismo di Arezzo
Address: Piazza Risorgimento, 116 – 52100 Arezzo, Italy
Tel.: +39 0575 23952/3
Fax: +39 0575 28042
Arezzo Turismo web portal
Image: Paolo Borgogni, Comune di Arezzo, Creaitve Commons licence CC-BY-SA 3.0, source: Wikimedia Commons
Text sources: Istituzione Giostra del Saracino, Wikipedia, Arezzo Town Council
Arezzo on Google Maps:
Video reportages and promos of the event: